As I write this blog it is the first day of the new Affordable Health Care Act. This is a big day, perhaps bigger even than we are able to see right now. Love it or hate it, it is designed to be a game changer for the common man (and woman and child). It is, and has been, subject to intense opposition, much like the initiation of social security in 1936 and medicare in 1965, although now people can scarcely imagine life without the safety net that those two programs provide all of us.
Who will this new program help most of all? If you are like me, you have good insurance and have always had good insurance. That makes us the fortunate ones. So is it proper for the fortunate to be indifferent to the fate of the less fortunate? Again if you are like me, you may have extended family who have not been so fortunate and who either have no health insurance or have expensive insurance that covers only a few things. We all know that medical bills are the number one reason for personal bankruptcies in this country (and in fact most of those folks also had insurance, but that’s a topic for another time). Most of us do not have to look far to find a family who has struggled financially when a family member got sick.
So who will be helped? Here is the line-up:
Anyone under the age of 65 with an income of less than 138% of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for an individual and $32,499 for a family of four — will be covered by Medicaid in those states (such as Oregon and Washington) which opted to expand their Medicaid programs. So, in a word, it will help the poor. And although “poor” is a harsh word, it is entirely possible to go to work every day, work a full and conscientious day and only make $32,499 a year. In this country that makes you “poor”—and if you don't think so, try to feed, house, pay for child care and educate two children on that budget.
If your income ranges from 138% to 400% of the federal poverty level — up to $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four — you may be eligible for financial assistance in purchasing coverage through the exchange. Subsidies will apparently be sent directly to the insurance company. You will not have to lay out that money and then wait to be reimbursed. The level of financial aid you receive will be based on your income and your family's size. The savings could be thousands of dollars a year.
Consumer Reports has a website to help us all navigate this new health plan. It is free. Just in case you were wondering, Obamacare health insurance will not be available for undocumented residents.
The President noted wryly today that although he feels confident that the Affordable Care Act will be successful, if it is wildly so, one thing is for sure: his opponents will cease calling it Obamacare.